There have definitely been ample opportunities to explore the unpredictability of fall weather with students in the past few weeks… When you’ve got a fall scavenger hunt planned and it snows that day, do you still do the fall scavenger hunt or do the winter one instead? Does snow necessarily equal winter? And when just a week before, it was a very balmy 18 degrees Celsius? We also got a live action demonstration of this unpredictability on a day when we were afraid it would rain all day, but then it turned out to be a fairly sunny day. While I started the fall scavenger hunt lesson with a storybook and introduced the activity, it was a bit cloudy but pretty nice out. We were about to get our coats on and head outside, when one of the students noticed it was raining. And not only raining, but POURING! Well, we had a little chat about having to be adaptable and how we can’t control the weather, and then we did a different worksheet about the seasons in the school garden… And by the time recess rolled around 40 minutes later, it was lovely outside again. (Not that I’m afraid to take kids out in the rain or other “bad” weather, and if it’s only raining a bit, I generally still take them out. But doing a worksheet when it’s soaked is sort of hard. And if they don’t all have proper rain gear with them, taking them outside when it’s absolutely pouring and then having them come back inside the classroom soaking wet is less fun…)

Luckily I did have a bunch of more successful scavenger hunts throughout the fall. We looked for signs of the season, like finding different types of leaves on the ground, counting how many different colours of leaves we could find, finding seeds, looking for bugs (which ones are still out and about in the fall?), and describing the weather. We also listed different things we can do in the garden in the fall – harvesting, cleaning up the garden, adding compost… Then we can come back to this list at other times of year and compare the changes in the garden throughout the year. This week, I modified the fall scavenger hunt and created a Kindergarten version which I did with the JK/SK class from First Nations School of Toronto (one of the schools where we’re starting a new food garden). We focused mostly on finding different types of leaves (different shapes) and seeds. They had a choice of drawing what they found or gluing their found objects to their sheet. Some of the kids did both! Here are a couple of examples of the great work:



A book I use a LOT for seasons in the garden is Plant a Little Seed by Bonnie Christensen.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned this one before. It’s great because it’s a seasons book specifically about a food garden, it’s got nice poetic text, it shows the year as a cycle… I love it and use it all the time! BUT, I need more garden-season books so the kids don’t hear the same stories from me every year, and also for introducing the different seasonal scavenger hunts throughout the year. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

DSC_0901A lot of our crops in the garden can handle a bit of frost, like leafy greens (lettuce is surprisingly hardy) and root vegetables (which actually get sweeter after a few frosts, as they try to preserve their sugars safely underground in their roots). Luckily kale can handle some solid cold (we’ve still got a few plants at both Blake and Withrow). It just hangs out under the snow and waits to be harvested.

I’ve had a chance to do some great nature art in the gardens this fall as well. I’ve written before about the colour scavenger hunt activities I do, where we use coloured paint chips to guide us to find different colours in the garden, and then often use those found/harvested objects for drawing or for leaf pounding. I’ve mostly done this activity in the spring or fall, but decided to do it in the fall this time. It was pretty neat to see how different the colours were and how differently the pictures turned out! It also fit in perfectly with Ms Church’s Kindergarten class’ work at Blake – they were just finishing a colours and nature inquiry unit! Hooray for curriculum links in the garden! I also worked with the Blake Junior MID (Mild Intellectual Disabilities) class to create some autumn nature art. Instead of doing a scavenger hunt using worksheets, we went outside and collected lots of fall objects – dead leaves and stems, some sticks, leaves and marigold blossoms to draw with, and did some bark rubbings. Then we headed back up to class and worked in groups to create some murals for the classroom. They turned out amazing!

I’ve definitely got “seed goggles” on after all of my seed scavenger hunts all fall – I’m finding seeds everywhere! On a walk home from work this week, I saw these milkweed seeds in someone’s front yard, ready to fly to find new places to grow. Beauties!

More on my fall harvesting and cooking activities coming soon…

Happy growing (and hibernating)!


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